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Gary Bettman doesn’t want knee-jerk reaction to stall tactics

Nov 10, 2011, 8:22 PM EDT

Gary Bettman Getty Images

A huge chunk of the hockey world weighed in on the strange stalling scene between the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, so it only makes sense that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave his own take on the issue.

“Did I like it? No. Is it the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen on the ice? No,” Bettman said. “But I do think it has now added another agenda item to the general managers (meetings) next week.”

Naturally, the worry is that the league will overreact to Peter Laviolette’s puck-based political statement. Bettman said that the on-ice officials handled the situation appropriately and that the NHL wants to avoid a knee-jerk reaction regarding what might just be an isolated incident. At the same time, he also said that the league might “deal with” trap-type strategies if they “became too prevalent and too much of the game and too regular.”

Obviously there are people who are probably on the extremes of this discussion (perhaps they should be called trap abolitionists vs. defensive enthusiasts?), but most of us hope for minimal changes – if any at all. It sounds like Bettman is in tune with the majority here, but he was wise to hedge his bets.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s some video footage from that strange night:

  1. falstaffsmind - Nov 10, 2011 at 9:09 PM

    I think the refs handled just as it should be handled. If the puck carrying team is disinterested in advancing the puck out of their end for an extended amount of time, blow the whistle and have a face off in the defensive zone. No rule change is going to force aggressive forechecking. It’s too subjective, and virtually all teams don’t aggressively forecheck when protecting a lead.

    • comeonnowguys - Nov 10, 2011 at 10:55 PM

      You can turn it completely around. If the defensive team is completely disinterested in going after the puck, then they can sit there and wait.

      Which side is better? Neither. Both are copouts.

      There’s a big difference between trying to artificially inflate scoring and simply working to prevent the return of the dead puck.

      • falstaffsmind - Nov 11, 2011 at 8:31 AM

        In sports, all sports, the team with the possession of the ball or puck controls the action. If in football, if the quarterback doesn’t like the defense he sees and refuses to start the play is it the defenses fault? In baseball, if the defensive team goes into the shift, is the batter allowed to wait outside the batter’s box until they shift into a defense he likes?

      • comeonnowguys - Nov 11, 2011 at 9:58 AM

        In sports, all sports, you still have to attack on defense to be effective.

        Can you imagine what would happen if a football defense didn’t rush the passer or even fill gaps? If they just stood up and waited for the RB to come to them? Even in times of prevent, there’s still a defensive line going after the QB.

        In basketball, do you think that Chicago Bulls team that won six titles just stood there under the three point line and didn’t go out to meet the ballhandler?

        Baseball’s both a great and terrible analogy for this. The defense actually controls the flow of the game. And if they don’t want to to face a certain batter? The pitch around him, send him to first, and face the next one.

        The Flyers were “taking what the defense gives you.” If the defense of Team B is going to let Team A hold on to the puck and not go after it, at the very least, that’s less time Team B has the puck. (Of course you better make them pay when you do make a move, otherwise you’re both cheeseball and ineffective.)

        I didn’t like watching what the Flyers did. But I’m not going to turn around and say a team that sits four guys in the neutral zone with their lead forechecker staying out of the Flyers zone like it’s a lava flow is any better to watch, or is keeping up with the spirit of what’s supposed to be an exciting, fast-paced sport.

        Both the stalling by the offense and the squatting by the defense make it a poorer sport to watch.

      • falstaffsmind - Nov 11, 2011 at 10:45 AM

        Every team does some variation of a trap when they have a lead or when the opposing team puts it’s top line on the ice. And the Lightning does not play an exclusive 1-3-1. They often use an aggressive forecheck. The difference the other night was the Lightning was using it more because they were facing a potent offense with 2 of their top defensive players sidelined due to injury. The fact the Flyers didn’t like is too bad. I still say it’s not incumbent on the defense to shift out of position because the offensive team refuses to attack. The Lightning won the game. That is all Guy Boucher cares about.

      • hystoracle - Nov 11, 2011 at 11:19 AM

        falstaff I garee with you completely.. The team with the puck has the responsibility to move the puck.. Putting th e onus on the defense to be forced to attack the opposing player is a very dangerous slippery slope.. These refs have a hard enough time calling th erules that they already have.. Subjective penalties would make the game even worse..

        If you don’t like playing against the 1-3-1 – score a goal and guess what they can’t play that style anymore. It isn’t that difficult to figure out.. The Lightning have been playing this system for 95 games and the playoffs…. They have given up goals to other teams while employing it and guess what they even lost some games… Last I checked the Bruins won the Stanley Cup because in part they beat the Tampa T in the ECF…

        Flyers made themselves look like fools. and should have been penalized for refusing to advance according to the rules on the books..

        If you are going to ban trap systems then you need to go back and strip the Bowman’s Red Wings of all their championships and The Devils of all their championships.. Then you need to go back to the inception of the game and find all the other teams that have utilized it and penalize them too..

        This is ridiculous… the “ideas” touted to force the defensive team to break their defensive posture to help out the attacking team is also ridiculous.. If we can do that then the opposing coach should be able to require a goalie change if the opposing goalie is hot and pitching a shutout.. OR request the opposing team play with no goalie until his team catches up when there is a blow out.. Both situations would be as idiotic as requiring your opponent to play the defense you want them to play.

      • comeonnowguys - Nov 11, 2011 at 3:04 PM

        Come on now:

        “If you are going to ban trap systems then you need to go back and strip the Bowman’s Red Wings of all their championships and The Devils of all their championships.. Then you need to go back to the inception of the game and find all the other teams that have utilized it and penalize them too..”

        Talk about overreacting. Even if they make a rule change, there is absolutely no precedent for retroactively acting in this manner. Times change; things evolve.

        All I’m saying is Tampa Bay can’t complain about Philly not moving the puck when all Tampa had to do was move a guy up to pressure.

        This is ridiculous… the “ideas” touted to force the defensive team to break their defensive posture to help out the attacking team is also ridiculous.. If we can do that then the opposing coach should be able to require a goalie change if the opposing goalie is hot and pitching a shutout..

        Hell, let’s just remove goalies! More overreacting.

        Tampa wasn’t protecting a lead. It was the start of the game. You don’t like what Philly’s doing? Go after them. Simple as that.

        I’m not sure there should be an additional rules changes, either way. There was nothing stopping Tampa’s forechecker from going up and forcing the issue.

        This thing goes both ways.

      • chiodo08 - Nov 11, 2011 at 3:27 PM

        it’s not the defenses job to engage…it’s an actual rule that ifyou have the puck it’s YOUR responsibility to move it…sorry but the Flyers weaked out and once again Bouche out coached yet another NHL coach…

  2. stakex - Nov 10, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    The NHL has already screwed with the game enough in the last 10 years… its time to leave it alone. If a team comes up with a defensive play style thats hard to beat, great for them. Keeping the other team from scoring is part of the game, and teams should not be told “Your defensive strategy is too good, so now its illegal”. Thats just bush league.

    Side Note: In case the league isn’t paying attention…. making the game faster and increasing scoring artificialy with hack and slash rule changes isn’t going to suddenly make hockey more popular. In fact, its going to chase a lot of long time hockey fans away from the sport.

  3. Chris Ross - Nov 11, 2011 at 3:27 AM

    I think that it is great for the NHL to finally see what has happened to the game of hockey. It’s not knee jerk by any means, this has been building for quite a while and fans are tired of it. This isn’t just one crazy instance. Peter Laviolette has showed what goes on all too often in the NHL. Interesting that he would do this in Tampa Bay and continued to take a stand. I could imagine someone doing this once but not multiple times as Laviolette did it. It will be interesting to see how the league reacts to this, as obviously this is unprecedented. Maybe this will go down as just one weird happening on one day but I suspect it could lead to bigger things, or at least it opens up the possibility.

    • hystoracle - Nov 11, 2011 at 11:24 AM

      All Laviolette showed is that he didn’t know how to beat a 1-3-1.

      It wasn’t until Jagr decided he had enough of sitting around did anything change. Jagr did at the end of the first period exactly what they should have been doing all along. He went to the defensive zone and got the puck then skated it all the way through the 1-3-1 into the Tampa zone.. Proving it can be done.

      There would be no issue here if the Flyers hadn’t stood in their own zone refusing to play. If they had skated up the ice and beat the 1-3-1 then the Bolts would have stopped playing it..

      If I’m any team playing Philly from here out I open up in the 1-3-1 because it was obvious they had no clue what to do.

    • micklethepickle - Nov 11, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      Quit being such a homer. Lav acted like a coward; never seen a grown man in professional sports pull the equivalent of “taking my ball and going home.” It was disgraceful.

      What all you PHI supporters don’t seem to understand is that TB doesn’t have an unstoppable defense, a la the Devils of the mid-90s. There actually aren’t many teams, statistically speaking, that are easier to score against. The Flyers were just too pathetic to even try.

      And the whole ‘statement’ excuse is infantile to an extreme. These players’ (and coaches’) job is to WIN hockey games. You really find it totally acceptable to not play any offense or try to win the game because the other team isn’t making it easy for you? What a privileged life you must lead… either that, or (more likely) you just can’t see past loyalty towards your team/hate for the opposition to see that PHI hurt the game of hockey with their juvenile tactic.

  4. hystoracle - Nov 11, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    What defensive style do the Flyers employ?

  5. stammermarty9126 - Nov 11, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    I saw the game Wednseday, and I have to say that I was full of rage when the flyers decided to play their little childish game hokey pokey by not moving the puck at all. I mean honestly what grade are they in or better yet how old are they? They acted like little babies listening to their stupid but pathetic coach’s plans just because the Tampa Bay Lightning have been very successful with their 1-3-1 system. I can understand that they may not like the system that other teams have but that’s tough luck. I mean when you consider every other team always has an advantage over tampa bay, the lightning are the one team in the national hockey league that have to fight against absurd penalties, stupid calls, I don’t even think there has ever been one game where they do not push or trip marty st. louis down and there is never any call.
    That is not was enraged me the most though. What enraged me the most is that Mike Mulberry, Keith Jones and Pierre McGuire, talked like they had enough superiority and immature nerve to tell Guy Boucher and the Tampa Bay Lightning, they should be ashamed of themselves just because the 1-3-1 system has made the Tampa Bay Lightning success bloom every since last year in the playoffs.
    Now I don’t want to come out as some who is saying that all the these three analysts want is for the lightning to lose, but when you think about it isn’t hard to believe that.
    Here you have Mike Mulberry who used to play for the Boston Bruins, and last year it was no secret to us that he wanted his old team to finally win the Stanley Cup after 40 whole long years of always losing and finally last year they won it. Then of course, after his former team wins it the majority of people probably felt the Tampa Bay Lightning should of have won it last year which probably enraged Mulberry. So you see Mulberry wasn’t going to be easy on the Lightning, he didn’t even acknowledge that the Lightning are getting really good or the fact that the last couple of games they have played they’ve. He didn’t even admit that Dwayne Roloson has stopped his losing streak and is playing like he played last year. Yeah he did bring up Roli’s age and how as we get older we slow down, but what excuse does he have for putting Garon down, from what everyone know Garon is much younger than Roli, but Roli has been playing great. And let’s not forget Mulberry didn’t waste his time in rushing Keith Jones in answering “is the Tampa Bay Lightning a playoff team or not?” So why is Mulberry ganging up on lightning like that, do you think it is because he really thinks so or can it be because Mulberry can’t stand to hear that the Tampa Bay Lightning should of won the Stanley Cup than his former team, the Boston Bruins.
    Now let’s go to Keith Jones, who didn’t act any better than Mike Mulberry. Jones was just as merciless to the Lightning as Mulberry was. But when you think about it doesn’t surprise me his comments, you know why? Because Keith Jones is a former flyer player, and it is obvious that he wanted his former team to win and not little Tampa Bay. I mean who do these guys think they are to tell a NHL head coach, how to coach his system or even more to bully him into changing just because one of hockeys oldest hockey teams never really has success against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
    Now let’s go to Pierre McGuire, his comments were no surprise to me either because Pierre played for the penguins, and who did the Lightning beat last year in the first series of the playoffs the penguins. Although I don’t want to accuse anyone, but do you think it can be possible that Pierre may be still a bit bitter after the Lightning seemed they were not going to even get through the first series ended up giving the league a big surprise when it was the penguins season that ended and that it was the lightning who advanced to the semi-eastern conference finals of the playoffs? I would like to be objective but these three teams that played against the lightning were able to challenge them. These three men obviously have big reason to want the Tampa Bay Lightning to fail because all three them wanted their former teams to win, isn’t that sad that these analysts have to be so biased, just because the most unexpected team, better known at the underdog can make a run for everyone’s money and may not only make a run for it but take the money too?
    What right do they have to bully Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher into abandoning his system just becuase it has made Tampa Bay very successful? And let me add one more thing by Mike Mulberry, Pierre McGuire, and Keith Jones saying that the 1-3-1 system is terrible defense, they are also putting down the famous hall of famer Jacque Lemaire system, because the 1-3-1 system is Jacques Lemaire system, which brought him in 1995 to bring the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup, so if I were Keith , Mike and Pierre I’d think twice about opening my mouth because it my just come back to haunt you.

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